Lewston-Auburn Dispatcher Helps Deliver Her Fifth Baby
Kathryn Skelton, Staff Writer, Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
LEWISTON — Three little words changed everything. “The head’s showing.”
On one end of the 911 call, Andrew Colapietro, about-to-be father of three, on the bathroom floor with his wife. On the other end, Buffy Gammon, a dispatch supervisor at Lewiston-Auburn 911.
Kimberly Colapietro was 39 weeks pregnant. She’d been having sporadic contractions and woke up just before 5 a.m. to take a shower and head to the hospital, again. The day before, doctors told her she wasn’t ready to deliver just yet.
“She says, ‘Um, can you take a look?’ That’s when I saw the head crowning,” Andrew Colapietro said.
He grabbed their portable phone and punched in 911. Gammon answered.
“She walked me through the whole process: ‘When the baby comes out, it’s going to be slippery’ — I was like, ‘Wow, she wasn’t kidding,'” Andrew Colapietro said.
Gammon was honored earlier this month for that March 16, 2012, delivery, along with four other dispatchers, at the annual conference for the Maine chapter of the National Emergency Number Association. All five delivered babies over the phone last year.
“I would say 95 percent of dispatchers go through their career without ever delivering a baby,” said Phyllis Gamache, executive director of Lewiston-Auburn 911. “It’s a pretty rare event.”
That makes Gammon’s stats all the more unlikely: Five babies, two breach, all girls, all healthy. Three as a dispatcher, two as an emergency medical technician.
“I just think it’s pretty cool,” said Gammon of Buckfield.
Sixteen years ago, on a Valentine’s Day call with Turner Rescue, she and a paramedic went to a Leeds home to find a woman in the late stages of labor.
“She thought she was pregnant with one; she didn’t know there were two,” Gammon said. “It was a big surprise when I and the paramedic are standing there and we both looked at each other and I said, ‘I don’t think placenta has feet.'”
On the twins’ first birthday, mom took them to Turner Rescue to say thanks.
Ten years ago, as a dispatcher, Gammon answered a 911 call from an Auburn woman in labor in her driveway.
“She had waited too long,” Gammon said. “She’s like, ‘We’re not going to make it.’ I talked to her for just a few seconds (before the woman handed the phone to her husband). I said, ‘I know being undressed in your driveway is probably something you really don’t want to do, but we really need to get you undressed.’ When she got undressed, she was crowning. It was time to have baby, now.”
She gave birth in the car.
In January 2011, Gammon answered a call from a panicked Auburn man. His girlfriend was in the bathroom doubled over, hemorrhaging, and no, he answered, she wasn’t pregnant.
“When he said, ‘I see feet!’ you kind of think in your head, ‘Aw nuts,'” Gammon said.
She told him to get his girlfriend on the floor, now.
“When the baby came out, I told him, ‘Just slap theof her feet,’ exactly what they say to make her breathe, and within seconds she started to cry,” Gammon said.
When she answered that call last March at 4:48 a.m., Andrew Colapietro excitedly told her, “My wife is pregnant, she’s going to have a baby, the head’s showing.” Again, she launched into Emergency Medical Dispatch Protocol, a guide with questions and prompts for all manner of emergencies.
“‘You need clean blankets, pillows, make sure she’s lying flat on her back,'” Gammon said. “Once we got to that point, she was ready to push. You could hear (Kimberly) in the background; I felt really bad for her. She didn’t want to be having this baby on her bathroom floor at home.”
The couple’s 5-year-old son, Peter, had come downstairs in the commotion.
“My husband says, ‘Can you get me some towels?’ (Peter) opens the door and grabs out paper towels. It was the funniest thing,” Kimberly Colapietro said.
She remembers not feeling any pain but being terrified.
“I was crying, ‘This has got to be a nightmare,'” she said. “The funny thing is I kept telling my doctor I was afraid that would happen.”
When baby Gianna was born at 4:55 a.m., Andrew swaddled her and rested her on Kimberly’s belly. Gammon told them to tie off the umbilical cord with the closest rope they could find. Andrew grabbed a shoelace from his work boots.
Gammon stayed on the line for another 10 minutes until an ambulance arrived. She reassured the parents they’d both done a great job.
A year later, they directed praise her way.
“(Gammon) was so good and so calm,” Kimberly Colapietro said. “She really worked well with my husband, who normally passes out at the sight of blood. For her to help him through that, and he was able to do everything, it was amazing.”
Andrew said it felt as though he had someone “looking over my shoulder telling me what to do. She was unbelievable.”
The five NENA-honored dispatchers included one other Lewiston- Auburn 911 dispatcher, Amy Dresser. Last November, she took a call from an Auburn couple who were en route to the hospital but knew they weren’t going to make it. They pulled over to the side of the road and she coached them through the birth, her career first.
“I’m tremendously proud of them,” Gamache said. “We are the first first responder. We may not show up on scene, but we are the first person that someone gets when they need help.”
Gammon has been an EMT for 22 years, for Buckfield and Turner, and a dispatcher for 13 years.
“I’ve never had the desire to have my own children,” she said. But, thanks to work, she joked, “I have five girls.”